A Ripple of Hope Netflix | Amazon Instant Video DVD Directed by Donald Boggs Starring Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, John Lewis PBS Home Video Originally Released: April 04, 2008
"Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. " – Robert F. Kennedy
With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 21, I opted to grab a streaming documentary in recognition of the day of remembrance. While most King documentaries focus on the man’s life, his famous speeches, his significance in the Civil Rights movement, or his murder, the short PBS documentary entitled A Ripple of Hope instead focuses on the historic speech made by Robert F. Kennedy on the day of Dr. King’s death.
It may be bold of me to say so, but it’s my belief that countless young people don’t understand King’s significance in this nation’s history – indeed, many of my own generation have little comprehension of his importance. We may know of him, but many of us did not live during the days of segregation and the uphill battle faced by African American during the time. And yet, we’ve all benefited from an improved prevailing social outlook and attitude in not only welcoming our cultural differences, but also in celebrating them in unity.
Yet, we have a long way to go. While racism is still alive and well, other areas of society are experiencing their own civil rights battles in this day and age… but the lessons learned from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s essence and legacy.
So, what is the importance of Robert F. Kennedy when looking at the history of Martin Luther King, Jr.? There were many connections between the two, and while King’s battles against racial segregation, violence, and prejudice were a grueling one, Kennedy is often seen as one politician trying to make efforts to "bridge the gaps between the races".
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered. During the day, as the news was emerging, Kennedy was on the campaign trail, making his run for President. After learning of the news, Kennedy delivered an unprepared, frank speech while in Indianapolis, and called for reconciliation and unity between the races. It was a significant and important delivery that, while mourning the loss of King, would be looked back upon as a memorable hallmark of Kennedy’s labors to help bring down the racist lines dividing the country at the time and encouraging the flourishing of King’s Dream.
A Ripple of Hope follows the development of the delivery of Kennedy’s speech, while inviting recollections from people who worked closely with RFK during the 1968 campaign, as well as African American guests (including those who rallied in anger after King’s death) who all collectively deliver their memories and reflections of the era.
Perhaps more importantly though, the documentary makers interview people (black and white) who were there for Kennedy’s speech in Indianapolis.
Although many documentaries on the event recounts the events as they happened with relation to the assassination, this short film offers a rare insight into the reactions and concerns and grief that followed the news of the shooting. The documentary also includes a great deal of file footage from days surround King’s death and Kennedy’s speech.
As a brief PBS documentary, the interviews are standard (though a little stale) in their filming and delivery. Despite this, I found the viewing experience to be compelling, especially with the file footage from the historic day in question, and the exceptional build up to experiencing Kennedy’s speech with all the delivered background information.
Several may criticize the selection of this documentary as it focuses on Kennedy’s speech rather than Martin Luther King. What A Ripple of Hope accomplishes, however, is the provision of a different angle of the day of King’s death, and the reaction from the community, and the attempt of one man in the political spotlight – without the benefit of a teleprompter, and against the advice of his campaign administrators – to stand and express grief of the moment, but also hope for the future.
A Ripple of Hope is definitely worth a glance if you’re interested in taking a look on the day following Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination from a different perspective, in a light the follows the reactions of the American people after the event. It’s also suitable for younger viewers, so if there are some parents out there interested in giving their children a glimpse of the significant historical event, it’s worth a watch as well.
It is a little bit of a different selection for our streaming review this week, but it’s worth adding this to your queue and checking it out on Monday when remembering Dr. King.